Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Northern Early America
Located on Lake Superior's rugged shoreline, nearly six hundred miles northwest of Detroit, Fort Wilkins was once an active U.S. Army post built to keep the peace in Michigan's Copper Country.
Begun in 1844 and abandoned just two years later, the fort was briefly regarrisoned in the late 1860s. Long a popular resort for outdoor enthusiasts, the fort became a state park in 1923. Today, Fort Wilkins is a well-preserved example of mid-19th century army life on the northern frontier. Nineteen buildings survive, 12 of them original structures dating from the 1840s. Through Fort Wilkins' exhibits, audiovisual programs and living history interpretation, visitors may explore the daily routine of military service, experience with soldiers' families the hardships of frontier isolation and discover the lifeways of another era. Attractions include 19 restored buildings, costumed interpreters, copper mining sites, evening slide programs, camping ($74/cabin, $17/group of six for camping) and picnicking.
The site also includes the Copper Harbor Lighthouse with a restored 1848 lightkeeper's dwelling, 1866 lighthouse, 1933 steel light tower and interpretive trails. The lighthouse is reached by boat. Boat passage is available daily throughout the summer season (fee charged).
Fort Wilkins is located one mile east of Copper Harbor on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, in Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Enter from U.S. 41. A Michigan State Parks Vehicle Permit is required for entrance to the park.
Please allow 2 hours for your visit to the fort and an additional 1.5 hours for the lighthouse tour. Modern camping and picnicking is available. Fort Wilkins is partially accessible to the disabled. Hours are 8:30am to dusk, daily. Most special events take place exclusively in the summer.
Tours of the Copper Harbor Lighthouse begin at the Copper Harbor Marina, 1/2 mile west of Copper Harbor, off M-26. Public access is by round-trip boat transportation. Round trip fare is $12.00 for adults and $7.00 for children 12 and under; children on laps are free. See more about the boat tours to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse at the Lighthouse Ferry Service Web site.
Buildings have limited accessibility to the disabled. An interactive computer visit provides a tour of areas that cannot be reached by persons unable to use stairs.
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